Nat Torkington

Nat has chaired the O'Reilly Open Source Convention and other O'Reilly conferences for over a decade. He ran the first web server in New Zealand, co-wrote the best-selling Perl Cookbook, and was one of the founding Radar bloggers. He lives in New Zealand and consults in the Asia-Pacific region.

Four short links: 12 September 2014

Four short links: 12 September 2014

Knowledge Graphs, Multi-Language Declarations, Monitoring, and More Monitoring

  1. Google Knowledge Vault and Topic Modeling — recap of talks by Google and Facebook staff about how they use their knowledge graphs. I found this super-interesting.
  2. djinniA tool for generating cross-language type declarations and interface bindings.
  3. monita small Open Source utility for managing and monitoring Unix systems. Monit conducts automatic maintenance and repair and can execute meaningful causal actions in error situations.
  4. perf-toolingList of performance analysis, monitoring and optimization tools.
Comments: 3
Four short links: 11 September 2014

Four short links: 11 September 2014

Win98 Retro, Glass as Sensor, Theoretical CS, and Code Search

  1. windows_98.css — the compelling new look that’s sweeping the world all over again.
  2. BioGlass (MIT) — use Glass’s accelerometer, gyroscope, and camera to extract pulse and respiratory rates. (via MIT Tech Review)
  3. Building Blocks for Theoretical Computer Science — free online textbook covering what I lovingly think of as “the mathy bits of computing that are so damn hard”.
  4. The Platinum Searchercode search tool similar to ack and ag. It supports multi platforms and multi encodings. Written in go, and is fast.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 10 September 2014

Four short links: 10 September 2014

Dandelion Dispersal, Future Weights, Networked Docker, and How Apple Pay Works

  1. BERG Closing — may open source their Little Printer server and IoT middleware. A shame, as Warren Ellis says, because they pulled bits of the future into the present. They were optimistic, not dystopic. I have a feeling BERG grads are going to be like BBC grads, where a certain crop from ~2003 or so went on to be influential at many different places. Dispersing dandelions of delight.
  2. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow — beating our minds’ misweighting of future events. This: When being invited to do things months in advance, the diary usually looks pretty clear and it’s tempting to say “yes”. But whenever a new invitation arrives, ask yourself not, “should I accept the invitation in March?” but, “would I accept the invitation if it was for this week?” (via BoingBoing)
  3. Weave — build a network of Docker containers running on different hosts. Weave can traverse firewalls and operate in partially connected networks. Traffic can be encrypted, allowing hosts to be connected across an untrusted network. With weave you can easily construct applications consisting of multiple containers, running anywhere.
  4. How Apple Pay Works And Why It Matters — for some reason this was the right level of explanation for me. Hope it helps. The end result is a token that can be used across merchants and both online (In-App) and offline (NFC, In-Person). Disaggregate and micropay for ALL THE THINGS.
Comment
Four short links: 9 September 2014

Four short links: 9 September 2014

Go Text, Science Consensus, Broadcast Fallacy, and In-Browser Swift

  1. bleveA modern text indexing library for go.
  2. Scientific Consensus Has A Bad Reputation—And Doesn’t Deserve It (Ars Technica) — a lovely explanation of how informal consensus works in science. NB for anyone building social software which attempts to formalise and automate consensus.
  3. TiVo Mega — 24TB of RAID storage, six tuners for capturing broadcasts. Which is rather like building the International Space Station and then hitching it to six horses for launch. Who at this point would make a $5k bet that everything you want to see on a TV will be broadcast by a cable company?
  4. runswift — an in-browser client for compiling and running basic Swift functionality.
Comments: 2
Four short links: 8 September 2014

Four short links: 8 September 2014

Glasshole Wiper, Complex Failures, Mail Startup, and Digital Media Disappointments

  1. Cyborg UnPlug — sits on your wifi network and will alert you if it finds Google Glass, Dropcam, spycams, and other unwanted wifi Klingons. Or it can automatically send deauth packets to those devices to try and boot them off the network.
  2. How Complex Systems Fail (PDF) — That practitioner actions are gambles appears clear after accidents; in general, post hoc analysis regards these gambles as poor ones. But the converse: that successful outcomes are also the result of gambles; is not widely appreciated.
  3. Schnail Mail — exciting new startup idea.
  4. Mapping Digital Media (Open Society) — analysis of media, online and off, in various regions and discussion of how it’s changing. Among the global findings: digitization has brought no pressure to reform state broadcasters, less than one-third of countries found that digital media have helped to expand the social impact of investigative journalism, and digitization has not significantly affected total news diversity.
Comment: 1
Four short links: 5 September 2014

Four short links: 5 September 2014

Pragmatic Ventures?, Pictures Vanishing, Vertical Progress, and Visualising Distributed Consensus

  1. Intellectual Ventures Making Things (Bloomberg) — Having earned billions in payouts from powerful technology companies, IV is setting out to build things on its own. Rather than keeping its IP under lock and key, the company is looking to see if its ideas can be turned into products and the basis for new companies. Crazy idea. Madness. Building things never works.
  2. Twitpic Shutting Down — I guess we know what Jason Scott will be doing for the next three weeks.
  3. Thiel’s Contrarian Strategy (Fortune) — the distinction Thiel draws between transformative, “vertical” change—going from zero to one—and incremental, “horizontal” change—going from one to n. “If you take one typewriter and build 100, you have made horizontal progress,” he explains in the book’s first chapter. “If you have a typewriter and build a word processor, you have made vertical progress.”
  4. Raft: Understandable Distributed Consensus — making sense of something that’s useful but not intuitive. Awesome.
Comment
Four short links: 4 September 2014

Four short links: 4 September 2014

Makerspace Libraries, xkcd Author Profiled, On Victim Shaming, and Generated Covers

  1. Makerspaces Coming to Libraries (Wired) — [W]hile I’m just as sentimental about the primacy of hard copy, the librarians aren’t. As they all tell me, their job is helping with access to knowledge—not all of which comes in codex form and much of which is deeply social. Libraries aren’t just warehouses for documents; they’re places to exchange information.
  2. Rolling Stone Feature on Randall MunroeWhen you’re talking about pure research, every year it’s a longer trip to the cutting edge. Students have to spend a larger percentage of their careers catching up to the people who have gone before them. My solution to that is to tackle problems that are so weird that no one serious has ever spent any time on them. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Not Safe for Working On (Dan Kaminsky) — some things that needed to be said, and which couldn’t have been said better, about security, victim shaming, and separating the 2% from the 98%.
  4. Generative eBook Covers — very cool (with code) system for programmatically generating aesthetic and interesting ebook covers. I particularly like the face-recognition-in-engravings look.
Comment
Four short links: 3 September 2014

Four short links: 3 September 2014

Distributed Systems Theory, Chinese Manufacturing, Quantified Infant, and Celebrity Data Theft

  1. Distributed Systems Theory for the Distributed Systems EngineerI tried to come up with a list of what I consider the basic concepts that are applicable to my every-day job as a distributed systems engineer; what I consider ‘table stakes’ for distributed systems engineers competent enough to design a new system.
  2. Shenzhen Trip Report (Joi Ito) — full of fascinating observations about how the balance of manufacturing strength has shifted in surprising ways. The retail price of the cheapest full featured phone is about $9. Yes. $9. This could not be designed in the US – this could only be designed by engineers with tooling grease under their fingernails who knew the manufacturing equipment inside and out, as well as the state of the art of high-end mobile phones.
  3. SproutlingThe world’s first sensing, learning, predicting baby monitor. A wearable band for your baby, a smart charger and a mobile app work together to not only monitor more effectively but learn and predict your baby’s sleep habits and optimal sleep conditions. (via Wired)
  4. Notes on the Celebrity Data Theft — wonderfully detailed analysis of how photos were lifted, and the underground industry built around them. This was one of the most unsettling aspects of these networks to me – knowing there are people out there who are turning over data on friends in their social networks in exchange for getting a dump of their private data.
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Four short links: 2 September 2014

Four short links: 2 September 2014

Antilogs, Waitbots, Interactive Interactive Visualisation Book, IoTbot

  1. AntilogsThere are companies before you who have done something like you want to do that you can copy from, and others who have also done something similar, but that you choose not to copy from. These are your analogs and antilogs respectively.
  2. Korean Meal-Transport Robot (RoboHub) — the hyphen is important. It transports all meals, not just Korean ones. Interesting not only grammatically, but for the gradual arrival of the service robot.
  3. Interactive Data Visualisation for the Web — online (interactive, even) version of the O’Reilly book by Scott Murray.
  4. wit.aiNatural language processing for the Internet of Things. Startup, racing to build strategic value beyond “have brought voice recognition to irc bots and aimed it at Internet of Things investors.”
Comment
Four short links: 1 September 2014

Four short links: 1 September 2014

Sibyl, Bitrot, Estimation, and ssh

  1. Sibyl: Google’s System for Large Scale Machine Learning (YouTube) — keynote at DSN2014 acting as an intro to Sibyl. (via KD Nuggets)
  2. Bitrot from 1997That’s 205 failures, an actual link rot figure of 91%, not 57%. That leaves only 21 URLs as 200 OK and containing effectively the same content.
  3. What We Do And Don’t Know About Software Effort Estimation — nice rundown of research in the field.
  4. fabric — simple yet powerful ssh library for Python.
Comment: 1